I have never visited a police station until recently, when my phone was snatched from my hands. My experience has been an extreme case of shock, if not disappointment.
I learnt from my experience for the first time, that people with authority take you for a ride and that there are both Good cops and Bad cops. Quite literally.
Tracking my ola auto on my phone to go to work on a Saturday morning, two men on a white activa snatched my phone from my hands. By the time I realised this was no prank, they were too far gone for me to be able to read their vehicle number. This was at 8:30 AM on 7th October, in a residential colony in East Bangalore.
I called the police, who came immediately and asked me to fish out my IMEI number so they could help me.
It was a three year old phone and I had thrown its box. Over the next two days, from contacting the Flipkart-Xiaomi Helpline number, to tracing my emails for my phone order or Google Dashboard – no effort of mine to find my IMEI number was fruitful.
The police from Frazer Town police station who proved to be extremely helpful as long as I showed to them on my laptop the last location of my phone, had given up on being able to find the phone by now. And this was despite having submitted to them CCTV footage I managed to find from a neighbour in front of whose house this happened. The entire incident was captured, but the vehicle number was hazy on zooming. They insisted it may not be possible to get a clear picture. Even if they did, it was most probably a stolen vehicle or a changed number.
They even refused to take down a formal, written complaint without my IMEI number.
This was extremely frustrating as having your IMEI number means that you can track your phone yourself. Moreover, having bought a new phone already, I didn’t care as much about getting back my phone, as I did about having those two men caught. Explaining this was of no help either.
In the two days that I waited before going to the police station, another Police Inspector from a different station reached out to me. They had found the robber and my phone, and were enquiring to know whether or not I had filed an FIR.
After having explained to them the problem I was facing, they reached out and sent me my IMEI number from my phone battery and advised me not to say where I received it from.
The next morning at the Frazer Town Police Station, they were already tired of seeing my face and informed me that only the Sub-Inspector of the Police Station can write me an FIR.
They could give me a Non-Cognisable Report, but I would have to change the wordings of my letter from ‘snatched’ to ‘lost’ a phone. For those who don’t know – a non-cognizable report is a mere acknowledgement with the police of having lost a property. It in no way, requires them to put any effort in finding your lost item(s).
I refused to comply and spoke with the Inspector who had come forward to help me. He gave me the number of Frazer Town police station’s Sub-Inspector’s number and asked me to call and fix a time to meet him at the station. Again, not revealing where I got the number from.
I went to the Frazer Town police station yet again, the same morning. I was first immediately dismissed saying that the Sub-Inspector wouldn’t come to the station today so I can go back. I patiently explained to him, that I had had a word with the Sub-Inspector on phone and he asked me to speak to a certain person at the station for my FIR.
As he paused to ask me where I got the number from, a random person from the office behind him walked to get his signature.
In all my visits to the police station I never saw him. In a matter of 10 secs, he takes one look at me and says,
“Sit straight madam”
Horrified, I look at him and say, “Excuse me?”
“Madam, you are sitting cross-legged”
“This is police station, madam. You have to follow some rules.”
“Show me where this rule is written, I’ll follow it”
The inspector behind the desk intervened in this time, asked him to shutup and said, “she is some big personality,” in Kannda and then told him to leave.
I was stunned and horrified to say the least. Though I was able to speak back at him, I still couldn’t make sense of what just happened. How men, just for the sake of imposing their supposed authority can say anything, anywhere, anytime to a woman without even knowing her.
After one and half hour more of an unnecessary struggle, they FINALLY agreed to file my FIR. While I could write a good 200 words more on the crap I was given on why not to file the FIR, I think the picture can be understood.
I met the Inspector who helped me, found my phone, and spoke to the 21 year old boy who stole it, for an hour.
For his sake, I would like to keep the identity of this Inspector confidential.
He explained to me how, most people let go of such incidents and don’t file an FIR. This is turn means that even if the police catch the thieves, the judge cannot give them a term/punishment. The efforts of the police are of no use in such a case, and the robbers (who were caught for the second time for the same reason in this case) don’t learn a lesson either.
I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation towards the Inspector, without whose help, I wouldn’t have been able to fight back the police at the Frazer Town police station. Not just that, in the bargain, I also got back my stolen phone.
Just because losing a phone is viewed as trivial, doesn’t mean that the police can refuse to file your FIR – is one hell of an important lesson I learnt from all this. But more importantly, it is being asked to “sit straight” – that I continue to be dumbstruck about.